A SME's Guide to Research & Development (R&D)

Susie Williams
R&D Funding Adviser | Enterprise Europe Network
17th October 2013

As a small to medium business aiming to grow and develop, creating a Research and Development (R&D) strategy can give you a far better chance of achieving success.

The size of your business can affect your strategy. With budget restraints, SMEs tend to focus on product improvement, whereas in larger businesses, time and resources are dedicated to developing new products as well as improvements to existing lines.

But what does R&D actually involve? We offer a quick guide below to the key areas involved in successful Research and Development.

  • Research

Successful R&D is reliant on extensive market and customer research. Identifying potential gaps and opportunities within your existing market or potential new markets, and understanding your existing customer needs and behaviours, as well as prospective customers, will help you to develop new or improved products and services that are relevant and desirable. Do research regularly to ensure you can respond nimbly to changing customer preferences and behaviours.

  • Innovation

Innovation is an important way to grow your business. Through undertaking R&D your business can become more innovative, leading to increased profits and lower costs. Innovations can include new products and services, better processes and new ways to engage with customers. 

  • Collaboration

In many cases, it may be beneficial for a business to consider collaborating on R&D with another enterprise, university or other relevant organisation. Collaborative R&D projects are a key element to achieving growth, and often a good way to secure funding. Collaboration can benefit businesses by providing access to new ideas, new markets and knowledge transfer, gaining access to skilled individuals.

  • Funding

For small businesses R&D can represent a large overhead, but don't let that put you off. There are a number of opportunities to obtain public-sector funding to support collaborative R&D in the UK and Europe. By setting alerts for calls for applications, reading and answering the brief carefully to ensure you can put forward a solid business case, and by dedicating a person to co-ordinate the process from start to finish, you can successfully take advantage of funding opportunities available.

Investing in R&D leads to long-term benefits rather than quick, short-term profits. Not only will it help you to improve and develop your products, but it can also result in innovation, increased efficiency and productivity, better processes and new ways to deliver services - giving your business a competitive edge.

Looking for R&D Funding?

Horizon 2020 is the financial instrument for the European Union’s investment in research and innovation. With a new €70 billion budget for R&D and innovation support, Horizon 2020 runs from 2014-2020. The programme will have a strong SME focus, with a dedicated SME funding instrument and access to capital. To find out more contact info@enterpriseeuropesw.org.uk

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